Rarely has a novel so completely captured America at a crossroads as has Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. It follows Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus and his family through an epic journey from their impoverished homeland to America and the promised land of the Chicago stockyards. The promise of freedom and prosperity soon fades though as Jurgis and his family are trapped in a cycle of grinding poverty, sickness, and brutal working conditions.
Though beautifully written, the tone of the story is oppressive but that's pretty much the point. Jurgis is transformed from a proud, hard-working man to a broken, used-up shell. The stockyard factories take everything a worker has and then tosses them aside. Interspersed throughout the main storyline we also find whole chapters cataloging corruption and the horrific working conditions of the time; other chapters detail the gruesome and grossly unsanitary practices of the meat industry. The Jungle did lead to many important reforms in food safety laws and even eventually to the creation of the FDA. Sinclair had hoped his novel would serve as a call for labor reform and towards the end it does become a bit of a love letter to socialism. The Jungle did however highlight very real labor problems and Chicago would become a center for union activity and labor reform.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with Casey Affleck as narrator, yet he quickly won me over. He brings a very necessary everyman feel to the story, a much-needed human touch to the material that often takes you to very inhuman places. His reading of one of the pivotal scenes where a childbirth goes horribly wrong is one of the most utterly devastating, yet touching performances you will ever hear. Affleck brings an incredible depth and understanding as well as a welcome subtlety to much of the reading. In lesser hands this material could have been easily overplayed and maudlin. Affleck's buy-in and commitment to the characters and story are palpable.
Sometimes it's important to revisit our own history, and many of the issues addressed in The Jungle are important and fiercely debated topics again today. Lest we forget our past, The Jungle is here to remind us of a rather dark part of our history and some of the flaws and weaknesses in our own humanity. Cleo Creech
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is a visceral and tragic story of immigrants trying to scratch out a living in the meatpacking plants of Chicago. The resulting public outcry led directly to the US government enacting changes in food and workplace safety practices still in place today.
With food production, business ethics, and immigration back in the news, Academy Award nominee Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone) taps into the emotion behind these issues to breathe life back into the struggling inhabitants of Packingtown. Affleck, a committed vegan and animal rights spokesman, delivers a moving performance that connects with the book’s enduring legacy.
The Jungle revolves around the life and family of Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant whose dreams of a better life are crushed by punishing work in gruesome stockyards and an unforgiving city. Brilliantly written and vividly described, it provides a poignant and incredibly detailed snapshot of a striking point in American history.
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"Caveat emptor: Powerful book, subpar narration"
Somehow I never read this book in high school or even college. I can't believe what I missed! If you haven't read this book, you should. But while the text of the book is a truly powerful work, this audio version of The Jungle has been ruined by the narrator: Casey Affleck's reading was exceedingly uninspiring. (I believe another reviewer used the word "underwhelming" which is a very apt description!) Please find a paper copy or another audio version and save yourself a credit.
"Great book ruined by poor narrator...."
This is truly a classic and a compelling tale, well worth reading. Unfortunately, The Jungle is ruined by Casey Affleck's sub-par narrating. Affleck's narration has a drawn-out, unrehearsed cadence of one who is reading a children's story to a particularly slow witted child.
Why is Casey Affleck narrating a book of this caliber in the first place ? He does not have a particularly good voice and like I said, his reading of The Jungle is underwhelming. I do not know what he is like as an actor, but he really disappoints here.
I would not rate this book as a waste of a credit -the story is engaging, it is just a bit of a disappointment with Affleck at the helm.
If Affleck was reading "Green Eggs and Ham" I am sure he would shine.
"Why, oh why, Casey Affleck?!?..."
This is a classic I always wanted to find the time to read. I jumped at the chance when I saw it featured on Audible. Unfortunately, it was difficult to appreciate Sinclair's timeless tale when narrated by Casey Affleck.
He had virtually no inflection and often sounded like he had a mouthful of saliva--the ending of words were difficult to discern in his coarse pronunciation.
I've listened to countless audio books over the years and there are so many good narrators out there practicing this craft, I fault the producers of this version for choosing an actor name over a quality reader.
Since the Lithuanian accent was so crucial to this story, why not use a narrator who has some understanding of this dialect?
Very disappointing recording.
"One of great social protest novels of 20th Century"
One of the great social protest novels of the 20th Century. 'The Jungle' is at once an indictment on the treatment of immigrants, poverty, American wage slavery, and the working conditions at Chicago's stockyards and meatpacking plants -- and simultaneously an exposé on the unsanitary conditions of the meat produced in the plants and led to Federal real food reform. Did I like it? Well, it pissed me off, so I thought it was a great piece of writing. It reminded me of the time when I was 19 and lived next to the Swift stockyards and meat packing plants. The smells that seemed more terrestrial than dirt seemed to flood back into my brain. 'The Jungle' shows how persuasive fiction can actually lead to real world reform. The FDA was created largely due to the public outcry after the publication of this book.
Jack London said in his review at the time, that the Jungle was the Uncle Tom's Cabin of wage slavery. The interesting fact, however, is Sinclair was more concerned about the people, the exploitation of immigrants and children, but the power of this novel ended up being tied to the condition of the food, and not the people. Sinclair was quoted as saying "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." Regardless, Upton Sinclair throws a helluva punch.
Casey Affleck gives a strong performance in the Jungle. He is able to nuance through Lithuanian and Polish names and various emotions and tempos with ease and aplomb. He stays primarily in the background of the narration, but still gives power and emotion to his reading of this great American protest novel.
"It might make you a vegetarian, if not a socialist"
With a hundred years of hindsight, we've learned so little.
Upton Sinclair's The Jungle is famous for disgusting America with its tales of meat packing workers falling into vats and rendered into lard, and all the things that went into sausages and tinned beef. (Cigar butts and poisoned rats not even being the most disgusting ingredients...) But as Sinclair said about his most famous book, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." The Jungle is not primarily about the problems of an unregulated meat industry. It's about the crushing brutality of capitalism, and the problems of unregulated accumulation of wealth. No wonder that Americans prefer the less political vegetarian version.
Although Sinclair was a muckraking socialist with an obvious agenda, The Jungle is still a compelling novel in its own right. Jurgis Rudkus is a Lithuanian immigrant who comes to America with his young wife Ona and his extended family of in-laws. Initially believing they have found the promised land of opportunity and plenty, they are quickly taken in by various schemes meant to impoverish, indebt, and enslave immigrants like them. At first only Jurgis has to work in Chicago's meatpacking district. He is young and strong and believes hard work will be rewarded, and those who warn him of how the meatpackers will use him up and dispose of him are lazy whiners. Of course, he soon discovers otherwise. The family undergoes one mishap after another, until within a year, even the children are reduced to selling newspapers on the street and still they are all barely staying alive.
Then things get worse, and worse, and worse. Jurgis is a modern-day Job, with no God to blame his troubles on, only capitalism. He has several ups and downs, but every time he catches a break, it's quickly followed by yet another brutal smackdown. Sinclair was trying to make the reader feel sorry for Jurgis and his poor family, all of whom end up dead, prostituted, or beggars by the end of the book, and you will. The poor man just cannot win, and if he makes mistakes and chooses the less noble path when given a choice, it's pretty hard to judge him if you've never been homeless on the streets of Chicago in the wintertime.
The Jungle is a grimly detailed look at early 20th century America. Sinclair was muckraking, so obviously he's showing the ugliest bits of America he can, but history proved that most of what he was alleging was true, even if his conclusions were questionable. Even if you are strongly anti-socialist, The Jungle is an eye-opening story, and still relevant after all these years. If you think that the horrors depicted in this book are relics of a previous era, just remember that to the extent that the very worst of these abuses are now curbed (somewhat) by government regulations, those government regulations are exactly what "free market" advocates hate and want to abolish.
4 stars. Knocking one star off because while Sinclair mostly kept his didacticism in check throughout the book, using gripping drama and only a little bit of exposition to arouse the horror he intended, the last chapter was nothing but socialist sermonizing, making it less a climax than the author climbing onto a soapbox to deliver his moral.
I have to ding this version for the unfortunate choice of narrator: I've enjoyed several of Audible's Signature Performances, but Casey Affleck's reading was monotonous and completely lacking in passion. His voice lacked distinction, and he sounded like a schoolboy reading a book aloud to the class. Not every celebrity actor makes a good audiobook narrator.
"Great book, poor choice for narrator."
I was so excited to see this classic offered on Audible; however, that was short lived as I started listening to it. Mr. Affleck comes across as an old man in pain and makes it very difficult to listen. At least he does a great job with the wide variety of ethic names though.
“The Jungle” is a grim tale written by Upton Sinclair about the meat-packing industry in early 20th century America. Sinclair exposes the dark side of poverty, urbanization, and immigration in the United States. It reminds one of Charles Dickens’ stories of child labor in London but does not offer much warmth or balance. Sinclair’s story offers no respite from utter degradation. There is no respite for a reader to believe there is any redemption for being poor in Chicago in the early 1900s.
Every country in the world benefits and suffers from the nature of man and the effects of urbanization; none offer Eden. America remains a land of opportunity. America still offers the best known vehicle for freedom, but equality of opportunity is a work in progress. As long as the American poor remain hidden; the rich and middle class will avert their eyes, mutter “get a job”, and think the poor get what they deserve.
"Enlightening Details. Phenomenal Narration."
This was assigned reading in high school; therefore, because of blatant rebellion coupled with youthful ignorance, I neglected to partake in my teenage years. This novel nearly transformed a devoted meat-eater into a vegetarian. The characters are well defined and the material dangerously realistic.
"Sad Story, Good narration"
Casey does a great "third grade teacher" impression with his character voices and reads the foreign words and names pretty well.
Well, I felt for Jurgis the most since he was the protagonist. He was such a genuine character all the way through. It is sad to such such a good man turn sour after life continued to hand him rotten lemons.
Sadly, The Jungle doesn't have "favorite" scenes as all good things quickly turned into horrible situations.
When Jurgis was given a $100 bill and in his joy realized that there was danger in using it. It was heartbreaking to see what happened. Poor Jurgis. Can't catch a break.
Just over and over again Jurgis was screwed over.
"Perfect. What I was looking for."
I could easily follow along with the story and not get lost.
I don't Know.
All of them. He was very good.
I really enjoyed listening to his performance and reading the book. He made everything come together for me.
"Finally got around to it"
His reading is exceptional. He sounds weary, which lends itself nicely to a story of immigrants being slowly worn down.
Everything. The story is BRUTAL. As a listener, you are the steer and you're waiting for the hammer of misery to fall.
The whole book
"An Engrossing Story with Superb Narration"
Upton Sinclair intended to introduce his readers to socialism. The amoral and unsympathetic characters don't really help his cause, but plenty of people have taken up vegetarianism after reading the gruesome abattoir scenes.
More importantly, this dark and depressing story is utterly gripping. Casey Affleck narrates it brilliantly, bringing exactly the hopeless, depressing tone that much of this novel needs.
The plot surrounds Jurgis Rudkus, a Lithuanian immigrant in Chicago. He takes a job in a slaughterhouse and experiences brutal working conditions, unemployment, jail time and homelessness. It isn't jolly, but it is utterly engrossing.
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